Remarks to Employees of Westinghouse Furniture Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan

September 20, 1984

Thank you all very much. And before I begin the remarks I'd intended to make today, let me, if I can, just say a few words about the cowardly act of terrorism that we learned of early this morning. The suicide attack against our Embassy annex in East Beirut has saddened us all, of course. It's another painful reminder of the persistent threat of terrorism in the world.

I talked with our Ambassador, Reg Bartholomew, who, although injured himself, expressed pride on behalf of the dedicated Americans that were serving with him. I called him on the flight out here. He was in the hospital there. But he's quite a guy, as are a lot of those Foreign Service people of ours. He had walked out of that explosion to the hospital under his own power. And he was telling that all he had were some cuts and things, and he says, ``I'm going to get out of here tomorrow.'' And he will.

But in this moment of anger and sorrow, I think our prayers are with those, the bereaved who have lost someone there, and our commitment to the cause of peace remains firm. And, of course, we have sympathy for those who are injured. I'm proud, as all Americans should be proud, of the brave Americans that are serving, as I said, throughout the world in that service.

But I now come to this part of the day, and I have enjoyed this visit so much. Actually, it's been a bit nostalgic for me. Back in an earlier life, part of my job at that time was visiting manufacturing plants in connection with the TV show that I was doing and speaking to employees under very similar circumstances to these. I don't want to give away my age -- [laughter] -- but I can tell you that the plants I was visiting then looked like log cabins compared to what I've seen here today.

Now, I look at you, and I know I'm looking at America's future, and it looks great. If our country is to remain prosperous, the standard of living of our people is to be maintained. If America is to remain a leader in world affairs, we must have policies that encourage this kind of investment in the future. We aren't going to have it if politicians tax away our take-home pay, tax away the resources needed for investment, and tax the vitality out of our economy.

Now, I wouldn't want to strike a partisan note, but I happen to think that America needs high tech a lot more than she needs high taxes.

I know you folks here in Michigan have had your fill of politicians insisting that what you need is another tax increase. We need to focus our efforts on economic growth and expanding opportunities for people. We've already tried the old ideas that rely on bigger government and more taxes as a solution to our problems. The old solutions more than doubled our taxes just between 1976 and 1981. They gave us murderous double-digit inflation, sky-high interest rates, unemployment, economic stagnation, and national insecurity.

Now, there are those who would divide us, appealing to envy and promising something for nothing. Well, I think the American people are too decent and too smart to be taken in by such divisiveness. What we want to do is work and build and produce for growth and expansion, so that all of us and our families will be better off.

And I have to say something to you in just the short time that I've been here also. Family, yes, it's the center of our whole system and our whole civilization and policy in this country. But within this plant, in just this last short time, I've seen a larger family relationship that bodes well for increased productivity in our country, and it's the relationship that you all have.

Three and a half years ago we started America on a totally new course, a new beginning. We cut the tax rates by 25 percent across the board. We cut the growth in Federal spending in half and trimmed away needless and counterproductive regulations. It took time to reverse trends that had been building for the few years previous to that, but we've proven the gloom and doomers are wrong.

We're in the midst of the most vibrant and vital economic expansion in 40 years. Six million new jobs have been created. The pessimists said it couldn't be done. But we stayed the course, and now our country is reaping the rewards of high growth and low inflation. We know here in Michigan progress is far from complete, but that only makes us more determined than ever not to rest until every single person who wants to work can find work.

And I don't think we need to waste any more time listening to those who keep telling us what we can't do. Leave them be to harp on about no growth and limits and lowering our expectations. We say America should shoot for the stars, strive for the best and, like our Olympic athletes, go for it. And if you look close, you see it beginning to happen all over the country, and that's why things are improving.

I can think of no finer example than your facility, which we're dedicating here today, and you men and women who are earning a living here by manufacturing high-quality products of which you can be proud.

The courageous decision to modernize this plant, to invest in the future, was made at a time when this division of Westinghouse was not showing a profit. It was a vote of confidence in America. This plant also represents a new level of cooperation and good will, as I said, between management and labor. And I've been told that most all of you -- management and labor -- were part of the planning process, helping to rearrange the workplace in a way to maximize efficiency, laying out the space to facilitate the work flow and improve production quality.

I understand that many of you who work in production were sent to customers, getting some direct feedback on your work. You -- all of you -- are doing a fantastic job. I think the last thing you need here is bureaucrats or Federal officials coming here to tell you how to run your business.

Today, thanks to a gutsy investment and a commitment to succeed on the part of all concerned, you're putting out products that are competitive with any in the world. Now, this is part of America's new confidence, part of the new patriotism. And I think the world is about to learn that once we Americans put our mind to it and are provided the proper tools and equipment, we can outproduce, outsell, and outcompete anybody in the world.

Success creates success. Momentum creates momentum. What you're producing, for example, will help make other companies more efficient. By doing your job professionally and the very best you can, benefits can accrue all the way through the system and eventually be enjoyed in one way or another by everyone. And that's what made ours the great country that it is.

I think it's also impressive that while working hard, you've taken the time and effort to get involved in community service. I know you were part of a fundraising effort, a charity golf classic, that raised $90,000 to buy equipment for the training of paramedics. I'm told that with the equipment you helped provide, the lives of many people in your local area will be saved. And that's quite a gift.

I know that a couple of years ago, Lee Raterink, former president of your local union, made a special gift to charity. Lee, they tell me that you sported rather long hair in those days. [Laughter] You pledged 1 inch of hair for every $100 donated by your fellow workers to the Muscular Dystrophy campaign. They also tell me you almost ended up with a crew cut. [Laughter] Well, that's the Michigan spirit.

And finally, I'd like to add my special congratulations to Albrie Love, Jr., who received the Westinghouse award for excellence for involvement in minority activities. [Applause] Your service to your fellow man in the Salvation Army, the Urban League, and, yes, in counseling your fellow employees is deeply appreciated. Now, you've just heard that it was. [Laughter]

And let's not forget that all of you can be proud that your company was an official sponsor of the Olympics. What you're doing is showing the world what America is all about. A few years ago, some people were counting us out. Now the whole country's telling the world, ``You ain't seen nothin' yet.''

Greg Meyer, who comes from this area, won the Boston Marathon last year. Well, all of us are in the race for the long haul. We're part of the same team, the American team, and we ain't coming in second. We're going to keep working together, building and producing to keep this country number one and the best country on the face of this planet. And thank you for doing more than your part. It'll be my honor to help you dedicate this facility to the American spirit, which is what you're all about.

And let me just extend a word of personal gratitude also, that my talking about the few years before we came here, I wasn't in any way talking about the days when a gentleman on this platform was the President of the United States. It was going uphill then. It started to go downhill, and we've just tried to put it back on that uphill course.

He didn't know I'm going to say this, but I have to tell you this. I'm going to tell it to another group here today, also. He and I in a way go back about 50 years. Oh, we didn't know each other for 50 years. But we did, 50 years ago, share a kind of a unique experience. He was in the center of the line, down in Michigan Stadium -- [laughter] -- in a football game against the University of Iowa, and I was up in the press box broadcasting that game. [Laughter]

Thank you very much. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 4:12 p.m. in the welding-fabric department of the Westinghouse Furniture Systems facility. He was introduced by former President Gerald R. Ford, who greeted the President upon his arrival in Michigan.

Prior to his remarks, the President attended a briefing in the Learning Center and toured the electrical department of the facility.